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Cook Islanders encouraged to obtain status stamp

Friday 29 January 2021 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Local, National

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Cook Islanders encouraged to obtain status stamp
PHOTO: RNZ

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has endorsed over 150 Cook Islands status applications in the last week, confirmed principal immigration officer Kairangi Samuela.

In a statement last night, Samuela said: “We expected this influx of applications following the announcement of removal of mandatory isolation for Cook Islands arrivals into New Zealand and had reallocated staffing resources to prioritise processing of Cook Islands status.”

Recent online discussions however, with a number of “erroneous comments” about Cook Islands status processing requirements need correction, she said.

However, Samuela admitted “we could’ve elevated some communications and public awareness on Cook Islands status processing requirements”.

“This would’ve prevented some of the current misinformation circulating on social media and for this we apologise.”

Cook Islands status affirms unequivocal right of entry and unrestricted residence in the Cook Islands for the status holder.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration is encouraging all Cook Islanders to apply for the Cook Islands status stamp, irrespective of where they are born.

The process, which has been in place for many years, requires the applicant to produce an original certified copy of their birth certificate and the birth certificates of their Cook Islands parent or ancestors that prove they are a Cook Islander as defined by the Entry, Residence and Departure Act (ERD). The fee is $30 per application (as set by the 2008 immigration fee regulation) and on approval of the application, endorsement is placed on the last page of the applicants passport.

Processing can be done immediately if all required documentation is presented on application to immigration officials. The status endorsement does not expire. When the passport expires and is subsequently renewed, the status holder submits the expired and renewed passport to MFAI for re-endorsement, a processing fee of $20 applies for re-endorsement.

“There has been a misperception that only Cook Islanders born outside the Cook Islands need to apply for Cook Islands status,” said Samuela. “This is not true and many Cook Islanders born in the Cook Islands have Cook Islands status stamps in their passports.”

“The reality is Cook Islands residents now comprise many different nationalities and the number of non-Cook Islanders born in the Cook Islands has increased notably in recent years.  Further, Cook Islanders, as defined by the ERD born and or resident abroad have grown significantly.

“The Cook Islands status stamp allows airlines and Cook Islands border official’s immediate confirmation of one’s unequivocal right of entry and unrestricted residence in the Cook Islands. We encourage all Cook Islanders who don’t yet have the status stamp to make application with the Ministry.”

Cook Islands air and maritime borders have been closed since March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions. In May 2020, Government granted exemptions for entry into the Cook Islands, limiting eligibility to the following classes of persons:

- Cook Islanders as verified by Cook Islands status stamp

- Cook Islands Permanent Residents

- Cook Islands work and or residence permit holders.